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In Israel, "It Is a Relief to Finally Have a Government"

In Israel, "It Is a Relief to Finally Have a Government"

Empty chamber of the Knesset with Israeli flag at the front of the room

One of Israel’s hidden gems is a poet named Taha Muhammad Ali. Discovered after he turned 70, he was a numismatist who studied, collected, and sold coins in Nazareth. One of his poems, “Twigs,” includes the lines:

And thus
It took me
Sixty whole years
Until I understood,
That water is the best of all drinks,
And that bread is the best of all foods,
And that there is no value whatsoever to art
Unless you instill a little happiness
In the heart of man.

I think that you learn that water is the best of all drinks in a very hot climate, like Israel's, and you are parched and thirsty to the point of losing your mind. Then, a glass of water really does feel like the best of all drinks.

I’m reminded of this poem when I think of Israel’s new government. It’s been 500 days without a government. Ministries were not functioning. Decisions were not made. The budget was not spent because programs were not carried out, which mean that pressing needs were not met.

After this long 500-day journey, it is a relief to finally have a government. Is it the government of our dreams? Absolutely not. But it is, hopefully, a functioning government.

And yet, while this quenches our thirst for a functioning government, the new government feels more like being doused in water rather than refreshing. The number of ministers and vice ministers has ballooned to 52, way more ministers than a small country under economic duress can afford. These include new ones made up just last week: the Minister of Higher Education and Water Resources, the Minister Liaising Between the Government and the Knesset, the Minister of Community Advancement, and the Minister to the Defense Ministry (not to be confused with the Defense Minister).

Moreover, all parties in the coalition signed an agreement that includes a clause stating that there will be no change to the status quo regarding religion and state. This means that if, for example, we win in the Supreme Court, all coalition members have already committed to reversing the decision and returning to the current status quo. While this may create obstacles in the advancement our goals, our very skilled staff have identified some excellent possibilities that will allow us to move forward on some of our issues.

Over the next few weeks, I will share our plans to advance pluralism and equality under the new government. Subscribe to The Pluralist, the weekly newsletter of the Israel Religious Action Center, for continued updates. 

Want to learn and read more about life in Israel? Subscribe to Israel Connections, our Wednesday email - part of the Ten Minutes of Torah series.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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